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Language micro-gaming: fun and informal microblogging

activities for language learning


Maria A. Perifanou

Department of Italian and Spanish Language and Literature, University of Athens,


Ilisia, 15784 GREECE, mariaperif@gmail.com

Abstract: ‘Learning is an active process of constructing rather than acquiring


knowledge and instruction is a process of supporting that construction rather
than communicating knowledge’ [1]. Can this process of learning be fun for
the learner? Successful learning involves a mixture of work and fun. One of the
recent web 2.0 services that can offer great possibilities for learning is
Microblogging [2]. This kind of motivation can raise students' natural curiosity
and interest which promotes learning. Play can also promote excitement,
enjoyment, and a relaxing atmosphere. As Vygotsky (1933) [3] advocates,
play creates a zone of proximal development (ZDP) in children. According to
Vygotsky, the ZDP is the distance between one's actual developmental level
and one's potential developmental level when interacting with someone and/or
something in the social environment [4]. Play can be highly influential in
learning. What happens when play becomes informal learning supported by
web 2.0 technologies? Practical ideas applied in an Italian foreign language
classroom using microblogging to promote fun and informal learning showed
that microblogging can enhance motivation, participation, collaboration and
practice in basic language skills.
Keywords: Knowledge Society, Web 2.0, Microblogging, Language Learning,
Play, Games, Informal Learning.

1 Introduction

Our society which has now become what is best described by the term ‘Knowledge
Society’ is undergoing tremendous changes and this has a great impact on business
and industry field but even more on education. The arrival of internet and especially
of the new era of web 2.0 social technologies have changed dramatically the way we
communicate and we get the information. Nowadays, language competencies and
intercultural skills will more than ever be a part of the key qualifications needed to
live and work in this new reality. The integration of new technologies into language
learning is a necessary step to ensure the acquisition of this kind of skills and
competencies. New methodological approaches are needed in order to make the best
use of the potentials of the new technologies.
‘Learning is an active process of constructing rather than acquiring knowledge and
instruction is a process of supporting that construction rather than communicating
knowledge’ [1]. Successful learning involves a mixture of work and fun. One of the
recent web 2.0 services that can offer great possibilities for learning is microblogging
[2].This kind of motivation can raise students' natural curiosity and interest which
promotes learning. Play can also promote excitement, enjoyment, a relaxing
atmosphere and can be highly influential in learning.
In this paper first will be discussed some previous theories of language play in
order to understand the important influence of play in learning. Then it will be
presented how web 2.0 technologies have been used to promote learning through
play. With the analysis of the microblogging technology and its use in language
learning the theoretical part will be concluded. It follows the description of a series of
micro-gaming activities that were applied in an Italian foreign language classroom
using microblogging in order to promote fun and informal learning. Finally, there is a
discussion of the results of this experience that aims to give an answer to the research
question whether the proposed activities can enhance motivation, participation,
collaboration in the participants and practice of the basic language skills.
In the first section the author will introduce at first place the basic theories
regarding the topic of Play in general and then will analyze the importance of Play in
Language Learning according to researches’ findings. How the web 2.0 tools can
enhance Language Learning in a playful and entertaining way will be discussed in the
end of this section.

2. 1. Introduction to Play

There is extensive amount of literature on the topic of play [3], [5], [6], [7], [8].
Play has several forms like fantasy, story telling, music, movement, games, etc. Play
almost always promotes excitement, enjoyment, a relaxing atmosphere but also
organization, problem solving and effective learning.
Sylva, (1974) [9] and Lantolf, (2001) [8] support the first research on play that
was conducted by Vygotsky in 1933. This research is probably one of the most
influential research on play and shows that play creates a zone of proximal
development (ZDP) in children. According to Vygotsky, the ZDP is the distance
between one's actual developmental level and one's potential developmental level
when interacting with someone and/or something in the social environment [4].
Lantolf (2001) [8] explains that children engage in activities that are not just about
enjoyment, but they go ahead of their actual development level getting prepared for
the future.
Some other researchers such as Huizinga (1955) [5] sustains that play is difficult
to be defined even though is a part of our life as everyone plays and has the ability to
play. Play depends on the age of participants, of the activities, and the social contexts.
It can be based on reality but also can be a fruit of imagination. It might involves a
game but not all the times. Cook (2000) [7] distinguishes play among adults and
children in a discussion about fantasy. He notes that children are more likely to take
part in make-believe and adults in fantasy. Also, Bateson (1972) [6] tries to give his
own definition for play. He explains that when two individuals are playing, there is an
intuitive sense that the current activity being engaged in is "play." "Play" looks
something like, "the actions which are now being engaged in do not denote what
these actions, for which they stand, would traditionally denote." For example, two
children involved in playing "house" are playing because the activities carried out in
playing house (pretending to prepare lunch, etc.) do not stand for what "house"
denotes in an adult society. Butzkamm (1980) [10] argues that verbal play can
provide children with the training phases necessary for developing new verbal skills.
Types of language play vary widely, from vocabulary games to talking one's self.
Language play incorporates word play, unregulated rules, and enjoyment. But how
can play influence Language Learning and how this can be introduced in the
Language classroom?

2. 2. Play in Language Learning

Play is also highly influential in language learning. With the term play are intended
all the fun activities in which the learners can be engaged in such as story telling,
fantasy, music, movement, role-plays, language games, problem solving etc as it is
mentioned earlier. The terms "games", "problem solving" and "tasks" have surfaced
continually throughout the literature on language pedagogy over the years. Well
designed language learning games should include all the benefits of a Task Based
Language Teaching (TBLT) assignment since from a functional perspective they are
simply a meaningful concatenation of tasks [11]. With the current emphasis on
extending communicative language teaching methodology to center around task-
based instruction, many of the tasks people engage in outside of the classroom are
actually the central core of a foreign language classroom. Foreign language educators
already have a strong history of incorporating everyday activities into their lessons
and in this way they can introduce fun activities removing at the same time this
barrier between formal education and entertainment.
Some researchers and teachers emphasize that play should not simply be
secondary to the focus in our classroom, but should be the main activity [12]. Guy
Cook (2000) [7] takes an extensive look at the role of language play in language
learning in his book Language Play, Language Learning and he also insists that
play should not be thought of as peripheral activity or a trivial, but as central to
learning, creativity, to human thought and culture and intellectual enquiry. It fulfils a
major function of language, underpinning the human capacity to adapt: as
individuals, as societies, and as a species. A play-centered approach to curricular
design encourages the extensive learning that comes with play, reduces the affective
barrier of failure and provides a robust framework for non-linear sequencing. The
lower of the affective filter in classroom is also supported by the Natural Approach
[13]. Buckby (1984) [14] explores the benefits of using games in the ESL
classroom and how they might be used to motivate students. He maintains that games
can be a main part of an ESL curriculum and do not just have to be introduced as fun
extracurricular activities. Also he insists that games have to be meaningful and
relevant to the material of the curriculum. Finally, he adds that games can offer a
“plausible incentive” for students to use the target language and they can encourage
competition.
Web 2.0 tools though they are not designed specially for learning; and it's getting
more popular everyday among our students

2. 3. Web 2.0 and Play

Web changed from a medium to a platform, from a read-web to a read-write-web,


thereby fulfilling Berners-Lee's original vision of the Web [15]. We are more
connected than ever and anyone can create, upload and share information. What it’s
important to point out is that three crucial factors are responsible for the success of
this “social revolution” of the WorldWideWeb [16], [17]: a) accessibility: according
to different statistical data nearly the whole population of the European Union has
access to the WorldWideWeb; b) usability: in other words the increasing “ease of
use” [18] especially amongst younger generations called among other names as
Digital Natives [19] c) device: that are getting improved by the companies as more
people use them, such as new generations of mobile devices like iPhone.
These new social software applications like wikis, blogs, social bookmarking,
podcasting etc. enhance creativity, communication, sharing between users and
collaboration; the words we use in education. These principles are in line with
modern educational theories such as constructivism and connectionism and thus
make Web 2.0 applications very attractive for teachers and learners. Many web 2.0
tools are now commonly used in learning [20]. Alm (2006) [21] maintains that
language learners have two communities of learning: the learning community in the
classroom, and the target language community. Web 2.0 applications can be used as a
mean that can bring these two learning communities together. In this way language
learners can have the opportunity to combine formal and informal learning. As Özge
Karaoğlu (2009) [22] maintains Web 2.0 platform can open up the classroom walls,
creating freedom and independence in learning, and provide a broader range of
opportunities for authentic and varied language interaction. Students can get involved
in the writing process by posting blog entries, editing to other pages, creating their
own e-portfolios. Not only it increases the creativity, as any student can write, film
and publish a video or an audio but it's also collaborative as students can easily create
social networks and communities of interests. Additionally, it supports student
centered learning as it allows users to become the producers of the knowledge and to
share their work with a wider audience. Finally, he adds that web 2.0 promotes
motivation and participation as it lowers the affective filter even to shy students.
According to the British Council, nowadays only for the English language there
are 750 million language learners who are using the masses of web 2.0 services to
learn one of the 5,000 active languages of the world. guest author On one hand, there
are plenty of new Online Services that Offer Web 2.0 Language Instruction such as
Livemocha, (http://www.livemocha.com), Palabea, (http://www.palabea.net)
Italki.com (http://www.italki.com) Soziety.com
(http://www.soziety.com/LanguageExchange.do) and many companies that offer
language tutoring using collaborative, real-time software as well as virtual worlds and
on the other hand, there are great possibilities to choose on their own the tools that
they want to introduce in their language classroom. [23]. The possibilities of fun
language learning that can practice all the basic language abilities with really
interesting activities based on the idea of play and entertainment are enormous.Web
2.0 services such as Flickr for sharing photos, Blip.fm for personalized radio and
sharing music, Utube for sharing videos, Diigo for sharing bookmarks, blogs and
wikis for sharing news, knowledge and multimedia material can be used in multiple
ways to introduce language learners to a new culture with interesting fun activities.
Additionally, another great idea for creating fun web 2.0 activities can be to use
mobile Internet, Google Maps and Geotagging. In this way, the learner is guided and
guides himself around in real-life locations where the target language is used. With
tools like Google Earth [Visit: http://earth.google.com/] language teacher can create
fun activities like games to familiarize students with foreign geography, city
landmarks and navigation in the target language. Meyer B. et al, (2008) [24] have
developed a mobile educational simulation for foreign and second language learning
for adults.
Other Web 2.0 applications that can support fun language activities offering
enormous promise to people who want to learn or perfect languages are the virtual
worlds applications like this of Second Life [Visit: http://secondlife.com/]. Second
Life is a 3D virtual game that can support playing ‘yourself’ outside the formal
educational context with authentic communicative tasks can be a new challenge for
language teachers. For instance, learners can visit a virtual representation of the
Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi to find native speakers. Also, this can be a venue
for language classes like Language Lab [Visit: http://www.languagelab.com/en-gb/].
or a networking opportunity for educationalists (EduNation, created by Consultants-E
Visit: http://www.theconsultants-e.com/edunation/edunation.asp) [25]
Games and simulations are not introduced now with web 2.0 applications in
Language Learning but they have been part of second and foreign language education
for decades [26], [27] as it has been proved that these techniques can be extremely
powerful means of helping people to acquire foreign or second language skills [28],
[29], [27], [30]
These were some of the web 2.0 services that can support fun language learning
activities. In the next section, the author will introduce a web 2.0 application called
microblogging that has been chosen for the creation of fun language activities for the
Italian classroom and the case study will be presented in the fourth section of this
paper.

3 Microblogging in Language Learning

3. 1. Microblogging services
A faster and easier mode of communication compared to the well known blogging
is microblogging [31] and it enables users to post short messages that are distributed
within their community [32].This is a real time publishing and it’s a unique way in
which people can connect and relate to one another. Users can post messages from
their mobile devices, a Web page, and from Instant Messengers [30]. Constructing a
meaningful environment around the individual, based on the people he/she follows
and who follow them back is the great value of this web 2.0 system. It can be used to
ask questions, exchange ideas and useful links, or provide pieces of advice and
support [2]. There are many well known microblogging systems such as are Pownce,
Tumblr, Utterli, Plurk, Jaiku. Yappd, Edmodo, Cirip.ro, Logoree.ro, Zazazoo but
they are still less prominent in the micro-blogging sphere [33), [34]. Despite the
potentials of these microbbloging platforms, none of these have such a powerful
network as twitter does [35]. Twitter is the most popular microblogging services
currently available, which can generically be described as a social networking site
hosting interaction in 140 character messages [34]. Twitter has a very powerful
network with millions of energetic participants connected to each other and it is
global and multilingual [36].
Language educators should check each microblogging service before introducing
them in class [2] or choosing them as part of their Personal/Professional Learning
Networks (PLNs), [37] because each of them displays particular features. A
microblogging service that is ideal for Language Learning is Edmodo. This is the
service that has been used in the fun micro-language activities that will be presented
in the fourth section of this paper. Edmodo [Visit: www.edmodo.com]. is a private
communication platform built for teachers and students. It provides a way for
teachers and students to share notes, links, and files. Teachers can have a closed
group collaboration, customise and manage their groups and obtain the groups code.
Teachers have also the ability to send alerts, events, and assignments to students. It’s
worth notice that Edmodo has also a public component, which allows teachers to post
any privately shared item to a public timeline and RSS feed. Furthermore, it offers
students the option of communicating in whichever language they feel confortable.
The calendar and the email notifications are two options that allow teachers and
students to control better their work and communication [2].
After the quick presentation of the most popular microblogging services existing at
the moment, the next paragraph will focus on some of the first Language Learning
experiences with microblogging.

3. 2. Microblogging Language Learning experiences

Micro-blogging is a communicative approach to the teaching and learning of a


foreign language for a linguistic point of view. In fact it gives the opportunity to
language students to communicate n their ‘virtual classroom’ at any time they like
about their daily activities, current events and also to share material, to exchange
opinions or to ask for any help. The important thing is that they can actually practice
their language communication skills while they are having the sense that they are
relaxing at the same time. Another key element is that they can not only use micro-
blogging among each other, but also with native speakers, which will further improve
their communication skills concerning "real-use" of language. There is also a
possibility of privacy, as the micro-technology allows all the users to send direct
messages and in this way only two parties can view the message. This is particularly
helpful when a student wants to communicate directly with his teacher or with
another student.
Sharon Scinicariello of the University of Richmond and George Mayo of the
Silver International Middle School in Montgomery Country (Maryland) are two of
the first language teachers who tried to introduce the microblogging technology in
their language classrooms. Additionally, Carsten Ullrich and his collaborators of the
University Jiao Tong of Shanghai were the first who made a research study in
microblogging for English Language Learning within the context of vocational
English language learning. But which were the findings of these first microblogging
experiences?
Sharon Scinicariello made some experiences regarding the application of twitter-
based activities in the French language classroom [36]. Some of the language
activities that she applied were question answer activities in order to help her students
to practice verbal constructions and digital story telling that could encourage his/her
engagement in an active and enthusiastic way. The most important positive outcome
of these practices is that microblogging technology can offer the feeling of ‘real
learning’ and give the opportunity to students to practice and use language in an easy,
fun, and interactive way connecting simultaneously language learning with the target
culture. On the other hand, she points out that users should remember two things;
first, the cost when they try to tweet through their mobile phones using SMS and
second, that they should protect their updates when in k-12 level.
“Twitter was incredibly simple and really amazing…safe for kids... with limitations
for classroom use” This is how George Mayo, an English teacher, [38], explained his
first microblogging experience with his students in an online-collaborative project.
His students practiced their writing skills through a unique collaborating, interactive
and enjoyable experience, which connected their classroom to a wider world. One
hundred students from six different countries participated in a storytelling project that
his class has started and what they composed in collaboration was a suspenseful
science-fiction narrative about a mermaid-turned-human.
Their research aimed at observing how students’ active participation in
conversational courses for English as a second language could be increased. Students
didn’t have time to practice the foreign language outside the classroom hours and
were also very shy in face to face environments, allegedly due to their limited
vocabulary.
In the University of Shanghai, Jiao Tong, where it was carried out the first
microblogging study for English Language Learning [32] results showed that the use
of microblogging through public and private messages, increased very much
students’ participation in the conversational courses for English as a second language.
Students had to publish a minimum of seven micro-messages a week, and read the
incoming messages of their fellow students using the web and their mobile phones. In
this way all the learners, including those who were very shy or they had difficulties
with vocabulary, participated actively forming a sense of community and practicing
the language in a informal, spontaneous and relaxing way. The contact with native
speakers of English played also a key role in supporting learners to achieve a real and
authentic communication. The only problem occurred was the fact that the students
didn’t use the target language during the whole project.
In this section, the author has succinctly introduced some of the first microblogging
experiences in Language Learning classroom. In the next section, she will try to
answer the question that has motivated her research: if microblogging can enhance
motivation, participation, collaboration and practice in basic language skills.

4 Case study: Italian Language micro-gaming

Regardless the other experiences and the study reported above, the adoption of
microblogging in teaching and learning of a language, and especially of Italian as a
foreign language, is a particular area that has not been sufficiently explored yet. This
happens probably, due to the fact that microblogging in the classroom is a fairly new
adopted approach. There is also a lack of research, and practice, on the integration of
microblogging in language courses, or even as part of studies focusing on learning
technologies and innovative teaching and learning practices.
This section will describe some practical ideas that are applied in an Italian foreign
language classroom using microblogging to promote fun and informal learning.
These micro-gaming language activities are a part of a long term research project that
has been conducted in a well known private language institution in Thessaloniki,
Greece during the academic year 2008-2009 from October to May. This research
explored the use of wiki, blog and microblogging in combination within a very
specific context: an Italian as a foreign language classroom. Despite the fact that the
teacher applied these three web 2.0 online approaches to support the face to face
lessons beyond class and time borders, the focus of this paper will be exclusively on
the use of a microblogging service as a tool that can promote an enjoyable way to
learn Italian language through play. Additionally, the main goal of this research
presented here is to answer to the basic research question whether these micro-
gaming language activities can enhance motivation, participation, collaboration in the
participants and practice of the basic language skills.

4. 1. Methodology

The participants of this case study were 10 students attending the second year of
Italian studies and regarding their gender, the group was composed of three women
and seven men, being their average age twenty-two. All students had a good level of
competence in Italian language (B1-B2) and with the exception of three of the
students, all the other individuals, who took part in this study, had no or very limited
experience with Information and Communication Technologies prior to this
experience. The microblogging tool chosen for this research project was Edmodo, a
tool especially developed for educational use. For the creation of the microblogging
group, the teacher took a leading role, signing up for it and creating the class group.
The microblogging group was attributed a code which was given out by the teacher to
the students. To join the group students had to use the code, after signing up for an
Edmodo account. Edmodo is a microblogging tool which does not require an email
address, making it easy to set up and use by the different educational stakeholders.
The methodology for collecting the first samples of qualitative data included the
analysis of students’ messages and activities, questionnaires, and informal group
interviews. The analysis regarding the frequency of the students’ registered messages
in the microblogging’s log can also generate concrete quantitative data in relation to
the frequency of their participation. As it is described in a previous paper regarding
this research [2] even though the teacher’s initial intention was to use Edmodo as a
private microblogging platform that would work as the class’ ‘virtual announcement
board’ with alerts for events, assignments and exchange of notes, links, and files
between the participants, it evolved in a more meaningful way. Students made this
communication channel a part of their daily life and they used it to express feelings
and ideas about class’ subjects, to share materials and information, to ask for help
regarding their homework or to discuss social problems. This back-up
communication class channel succeeded to bridge the face to face lessons with the
web environment supporting the language learning of the students inside and outside
the classroom. In this way, informal and formal learning coexisted and were
acknowledged as part of students’ learning. The sense of being part of a community
and also able to reach beyond the classroom’s walls, while in school, has given the
students a feeling of freedom and tranquility where their learning was concerned. The
students’ participation and satisfaction have increased as they practiced the Italian
language in a rather natural and more fluent way and this has also influenced their
levels of learning outcomes very positively.
Due to the fact that the students embraced so quickly and in such an enthusiastic
way this communication channel and bearing in mind the research’s first positive
outcomes, the researcher wanted to apply this tool also in a different way in order to
support the learning process. She created a series of fun micro-gaming language
activities that aimed to enhance motivation, participation, collaboration in the
participants and practice of their basic language skills.
This time the students didn’t face any problem in the use of the tool despite their
lack of technology literacy as they have been using it for several months. The class
was divided in groups of two students, in total five groups. Each group had a different
edmodo account and a password for this created by the teacher. In the class
microblogging space ‘incontritaliani 2’ the students could find the task to do with all
the instructions.
a) First micro-activity example: ‘digital stories’
Each group had to visit utube and flickr to make a little research and find one
video and one photo related to the Italian culture. The teacher proposed some
keywords such as cucina italianain this activity was the fact that each group after has
found the video and the photo of its preference had to start a story and post
everything to the group indicated by the teacher, in order to continue and finish the
story in its turn. The group that could publish first in the classes’ microblogging
space ‘incontritaliani 2’ would be the winner of the game.
b) Second micro-activity example: ‘Film scripts’
Each group had to choose a scene between several scenes of five famous Italian
films proposed and published by the teacher at the wikis’ class. The purpose of the
activity was to write the subtitles of the scene chosen. After the creation of these
imaginary dialogues using the microblogging tool the teacher published the dialogues
at the class microblogging space and then made the corrections needed giving
explanations to the students in private or public messages. The activity was
concluded with the performance of the scenes by the students and then followed, first,
the screening of the original film scenes and, second, the votes for the best script
creation by the students. The goal of the activity was to practice basically the oral
skill through the creation of these script-dialogues in a spontaneous way as if they
were ‘acting’ in real life.
c) Third example: ‘Italian music’
Each group had to visit Utube and find the video of one of the five Italian songs
proposed by the teacher and then post it to the class microblogging space. Every
group had to watch the film that has chosen and then write and post the verses of the
song. The group that would have finished first the activity would be the winner. After
this students could visit the class blog and find the music site italianissima.net [Visit:
http://www.italianissima.net/] where they could explore a database of many famous
Italian songs and find the verses of their songs and correct them. The activity finished
with the students singing the three songs. In this case two of the students were
musicians and played also the guitar. The goal of this activity was to practice mostly
listening and comprehension skills.
d) Fourth example: ’cartoon based story’
In this activity students worked all together and not in groups. The teacher gave
out to them a story based on photos of cartoons designs and each of them had to write
the dialogue of each photo of the ‘cartoon heroes’ every time it was his/her turn. The
story was corrected and posted in the class microblogging space. The goal of this
activity was to practice mostly oral skills and the common goal of all these activities
was the enhancement of motivation, participation and collaboration in the
participants.
Before referring to results of the study regarding the micro-gaming language
activities, it’s worth mentioning that students were very positive when they had been
asked in previous questionnaires if they would like to use Edmodo as microblogging
service for participating in collaborative fun language activities. They also gave to the
researcher many ideas and based on their personal preferences the researcher created
the activities.

4. 2. Results

According to the data collected in the questionnaires and their micro-posts all the
students were very enthusiastic knowing that they would participate in these fun
activities that were based on topics they have chosen. The 90% of the students stated
that they loved the experience of being involved in these activities and only the 10%
of the students have expressed that was a little bit hesitant since have continued to
affront some problems with the use of technology in general.
When they were asked if they liked participating in teams or if they would have
preferred to be involved in the activities on their own all of them chose the first
option. In a similar question at the group interviews students stated that they felt free,
more confident in themselves knowing that could be supported by their group
companions. In fact, they commented that they enriched their knowledge a lot by
their collaboration with their classmates. The 90% also commented that teacher’s
continuous support with her immediate feedback also encouraged them to continue
their effort with no stress as she resolved any problem they affronted at once. They
also stated that it was very important to them that the task was clearly explained and
they understood every step of the process. As it is reported by the 90% of the students
being engaged in these activities felt that they were having such a great fun that the
time seemed to pass so quickly and so they were looking forward to repeating such an
experience again very soon.
The 100% of the participants agreed that this was definitely not a lost of time as
they were also preparing hard for the certification exams in that period. In contrary,
they stated that not only they have learned a lot of things about the Italian culture, and
they have enriched their vocabulary but they had also the possibility to use the
language in real situations and be really creative.
The majority of them also agreed that they had the chance to practice oral, writing,
listening and comprehension skills. To the question which one was their favourite
activity the 80% of the students answered that even though it was difficult to decide
they chose the activity named ‘Film scripts’ and especially the part in which they had
to perform their roles reading their dialogues. All of the students agreed that the
competition provided by the game motivated them very much and gave them the
feeling of learning in a more ‘natural’ and not very formal way. To the question if
their expectations were less than what they expected the 100% of the students said
that what they had experienced was really beyond their thoughts as they hadn’t
imagined that they could have such a fun, playing and learning at the same time.
What has been characterized by the 80% as a barrier to the successful conclusion of
the activities in time was the slow internet connection sometimes and some other
technical problems that have been occurred. Despite these problems all the students
succeed to complete their activities even after the face to face meetings. The 80%
stated that this time and space flexibility was a really advantageous point of the tool
whereas the rest 20% said that they would prefer to have finished everything at the
lab as they didn’t have much free time at this period. From the group interviews the
researcher also found out that the 80% agreed that this kind of fun activities should
not be secondary in the focus of the curriculum that would like to have in future but it
should be the main type of activities. It is also worth notice that the 90% of the
participants stated that having become familiar with micro-technology by engaging in
with it for a long time, gave them confidence and freedom during the process.
Finally to the question if they would visit again the sites proposed during the fun
activities after the lessons the 60% of the participants answered yes while the 40%
said that they will do that in future when they will have more time to discover more
material.

5 Conclusions

This paper attempted, first, to show how a series of micro-gaming language


activities that were applied in an Italian foreign language classroom promoted fun
and informal learning and, second, tried to give an answer to the research question
whether the microblogging technology could enhance motivation, participation,
collaboration and practice in basic language skills. Despite some technical problems
that have been occurred, the students’ feedback from this experience was very good
and beyond any expectations. In fact, micro-gaming language activities influenced
their levels of participation, collaboration and learning outcomes positively. Playing
and practicing the Italian language at the same time outside the formal educational
context but with authentic communicative tasks, appeared to have significant impact
on the way students were learning the target language. Learning became a more
fluent and natural action. They were really motivated and full of enthusiasm and
excitement. The dynamism that Edmodo had brought into this particular Italian
language classroom after the first month of use has been strengthen even more now
after these activities. Further analysis of the results of this project will be made in a
future paper.
Authentic, meaningful, interactive, student-centered, fun, Web-based learning
activities can improve student performance in much the same manner as learning the
language and culture while studying abroad. These tremendous changes initiated by
the new technologies necessitate a re-thinking of the way we teach and learn. It is no
longer a question of whether to take advantage of these electronic technologies in
foreign language instruction, but of how to harness them and guide our students in
their use. It is necessary to consider that complete new didactical approaches and
teaching challenges have to be evolved by teachers. Experimenting new ways of
combining play and new web 2.0 technologies in the foreign language classroom it is
what the author of this paper aims to do in future and invites other language teachers
to follow her example.

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